First Blog

This is the first Blog I have attempted to write, so please bear with me as I stumble and bumble my way.

My Blogs probably, in the grand scheme of things, will be shorter than most. There are at least two reasons for this. 

The first reason is that I don’t want to wear you out or bore you.

The second is that the topics I know enough to write about have already been used. Most of what I’ll have to say is a distillation of all I’ve encountered about each topic, gleaned over the years from so many sources it would be frivolous to mention them all. When I stimulate your interest in some way, and/or you have more information about the topic to share with me and others, please feel free to Contact Me.

Here’s a short list of topics that may find their way to this blog. If you’d like to add (or delete) a topic, please let me know. I expect the list to grow.

  • Autism and other conditions that can affect or change a person’s life—everything from “How to Be One,” to “How to Help One.”
  • Why each of the books on two shelves in my bookcase is there. These books have informed my life. They taught me something by virtue of their content, or they stimulated my interest in the art of writing well, or both.
  • Other book reviews—an eclectic variety of topics and styles.
  •  “How to ….” pieces about a wide variety of things, from how to cope with a parent with dementia to how to procrastinate when you’re faced with a major project.
  • My favorite recipes. 

I’m sure I’ll think of more topics. I look forward to both your comments on anything you encounter on this website and suggestions for other topics. Some of these latter may be out of my ken, but I’d like to hear about them.

Thank you for reading this far. Stay tuned. I hope to change this blog weekly.

Cybele

Codfish Dinner

On a cold, gray 
Michigan winter evening,
we sit to dinner.

Codfish, mashed potatoes, canned corn; 
all cold.
The fish is old;
fried to leather, 
it smells like rancid ocean.

No one speaks.
I push fish flakes 
among corn nibblets,
unable to clean my plate.

My grandmother giggles.
My mother titters.
I look to my right.

With brown eyes dancing
above his solemn face,
my little brother wears
a mashed potato beard

Losses

We lose our keys. Our glasses. The scrap of paper with our son’s new address on it, just before we leave our house to go over there. The word that was the point of the punch line to the long joke we started to tell to five people standing around in the parking lot at the Safeway. We’re old now. It happens to the best of us. Everyone understands. We find the keys and the glasses, and we call our son who gives us the directions again. Our friends laugh with us about the joke anyway. 

More losses come with our age. Our vision. Our hearing. All manner of “good health” things we never used to worry about now are lost in a sea of “issues” we must take care of every day. That’s not all. We lose sleep and, somehow, control of our cars and our golf clubs and our tennis racquets. It’s a losing battle.

We lose people. We lose them to diseases and cancer, and to failure of body parts to function any longer. We lose neighbors and acquaintances, and mailmen, doctors, and Yoga instructors, and people we didn’t really know but who were important to someone we know well. We lose classmates, friends, and cousins—people we were close to. In our minds and hearts, these people were not supposed to die. Like ourselves, they were supposed to live forever. At least, we think, they were supposed to outlive us, so we would not have to consider their absence, the cause and manner of their death, and our sorrow at the lack of their presence in our lives from now on.

We lose our closest friends, our siblings, our spouses, even—perhaps—our children. For some, these losses are not always totally unexpected. The person was ill, or had a life-taking condition with a probable prognosis for when they might pass away. But, for many, all the preparation in the world is of little help when the moment arrives and the loved one leaves. Whether the loss is a peaceful and calm departure or a sudden surprise, those left behind experience a period of grief and sorrow that may inhabit their lives for years. Sometimes this feeling is intense and sharp; it may come and go and then essentially disappear. Sometimes it pervades throughout all the life of the mourner for the rest of their days. Each person’s experience is different; it depends on the characteristics of the person left behind and the nature of the relationship between the two people. 

As we grow older, we encounter a greater number of these personal losses. At times, we feel overwhelmed and it seems we are alone in our grief; no one is left but ourselves. But we are in a unique situation. Our generation is the first to live as long as we do. More of us are still alive at our ages than were in any decade before now. We are not alone.  We have only to look around and recognize the number of folks trucking along with canes and walkers and wheelchairs. So many! So take heart and go meet a new friend, today. Who knows? It may be the start of another lifelong friendship!

The Best Fried Chicken

During WW II, before I grew old enough to go to school, we lived in a suburb of Detroit, MI. For summer vacations, we vacationed in Gatlinburg, TN. Gatlinburg then remained a tiny village. You could stand at one end of town, look up the street toward the center of town, and not see a building or person.

It took two days to drive just over 600 miles one way. Both ways, we spent the night at the Colonial Motor Court in Corbin, Kentucky. We ate dinner and breakfast at the Colonial Kitchen.

We always ate fried chicken and biscuits for dinner. My brother Jimmy and I didn’t know there was anything else on the menu. For breakfast, Jimmy and I always ate pancakes. The grownups ate eggs, bacon, and biscuits.

On the wall, at nearly head-height for a grownup, small shelves like sconces held Depression Glass bowls full of honey, honeycomb, and a few deceased flies. Waitresses used glass ladles to dip honey into smaller Depression Glass bowls they placed on tables. I always watched with mixed emotions. I wanted them to get a goodly-sized chunk of comb, but I wanted them to miss all the flies. 

Often, we were among the last customers there. The chef usually came out from the kitchen, pulled out the end chair at our table, sat backwards, and talked with my parents. He took the baby’s bottle back into the kitchen and returned with it warmed to just the right temperature. Once, he took Jimmy and me in the back to see a real restaurant kitchen, even the waffle machine!

While he talked with our parents, he bounced the baby on his knee or held Jimmy or me on his lap. He made sure he talked with us, too, so we didn’t feel left out or completely bored.

For me, the stop in Corbin was the high point of a long, tedious trip, filled with squabbles, boredom, at least one flat tire, several detours, and other uncertainties we children did not understand.

Just as WW II ended, my grandmother bought a cabin, outside Gatlinburg. In 1950, we moved to Tennessee. We didn’t have vacations, and we didn’t stop in Corbin.

Years passed. I joined the ranks of snobs who believe fast food is in the category of evils made up of bad health, bad ecology, bad economy, and bad sense. One day, I made a particularly rude comment about Colonel Saunders. My father whipped around and glared at me. 

“You mind your manners, young lady! You used to sit on that man’s knees and love it!”

I stopped dead in my tracks. 

I blush to say I’d never made the connection. It never occurred to me the wonderful man who wore a chef’s hat—who sat in the turned-around chair, laughed with my parents, bounced me on his knee and kissed the top of my head, showed me the wonderful kitchen full of what I would come to covet as cooking tools and toys—that wonderful man was one and the same as the Colonel Saunders whose image I saw nearly every day as I drove around on my errands.

I felt dumbfounded, more than embarrassed, and dreadfully ashamed.

I’m also so grateful I cannot tell you. I can admit I crave Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’d not been able to explain it, but the smell always stirred a vague memory I hadn’t been able to put my finger on. It had stared at me all that time. The memory is real. The craving for something I’ve always loved is real. I can go home again! 

The commercials are right. Kentucky Fried Chicken really is the way Colonel Saunders made it. I remember eating that fried chicken. It tastes and smells today the way I remember it.

Recently, I learned my kidney function is poor. I’ve changed my diet. I rarely eat animal protein. But I learned a long time ago moderation is a good thing. There’s not a single absolute in my life, except I do not have any absolutes. 

I confess. I don’t inhale, but I am again a KFC user!

Surfing in Love

When I married the first time,
we went body surfing.
I thought it was like 
making love;
riding waves, 
being in control. 

When I first met you,
I thought about body surfing.
I felt it was like 
being in love.
We rode the waves; 
controlled each other.

We rolled and tumbled, 
cavorted and rode on waves,
were lost in them as they crashed down upon us, 
threw us into the sand at the bottom; 
gritty, full of kelp, 
broken dreamshells, 
stinging jellyfish.
The strands of our needs, like kelp vines, 
wound round and round our legs. 
We could not flee;
threw ourselves upon yet another wave, 
cried out that we wanted the ride. 

Yes!
We needed each other. 
The ride was all we needed: 
to be you and me together, 
high upon another wave, 
one more time. 

Your heart stopped beating.

The riptide tore you out of my arms. 
Oh! My darling!

I ride the surf alone.
On the shallow waves, 
your shadow ebbs away
in the still mirror.